For Science! (TW: cancer)

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“Mad scientist”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Fun fact: You can get me to do almost anything by convincing me it’s For Science!


For instance, I kinda hate cancer-related things.  Have hated ’em since I got cancer the first time, and will continue to, always and forever.  But when I get research studies in the mail (which, can we just meditate for a moment on how creepy that is, that random scientists are able to get my name, address, and data about my medical history from the government?  Yes, apparently I am on STATE LISTS) . . . well, I’m just such a sucker for helping science.  Take my blood!  Take my answers!  You don’t have to use them for good, as long as you use them For Science!

I was almost on a clinical trial right before I got cancer again (it was a study to see if a certain medication could prevent an additional cancer in people who were at risk, like me).  And even if I ended up in the control group, I was so excited to be able to be a subject For Science.  (But then, in a delicious twist of timing, I got the cancer the study would have been working towards preventing.  Ah, life.)

In fact, the treatment I had for cancer when I was a kid was a clinical trial.  More than a dozen years later, I found out that the side of the coin flip I was on was found not to help survival rates — but had caused almost all of my secondary health problems (and, yay, eventually my second cancer).  Considering I had been, at one point, suspected to be in remission[1] and could have exited the study, it was kind of upsetting news.  But one of my friends immediately reminded me that by staying on the study I had HELPED SCIENCE.  (There is also the point that at the time, there was absolutely no way to know whether I needed the additional treatment in order to, yanno, not die.  But that wasn’t nearly as mollifying as the For Science! part.)  By subjecting myself to eventually-found-to-be-probably-unnecessary treatment that caused all sorts of other issues and eventually more cancer, I helped be a data point to show that treatment was unnecessary!  I get a kick out of that.  I’m proud of it.  YAY SCIENCE!

In fact, if I’d died of this second cancer, I would hope my obituary would have read, “Sacrificed for science.”  And then hopefully my body would have gone to medical researchers to slice and dice and use For More Science.  (My organs are too fucked up to donate to people, but they can go to medical research.  SCIENCE FTW!)

All in all, it makes me so much happier in life to know that I’ve passively contributed to the advancement of medical research.  SCIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEENCE!

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Cancer remission is often not cut and dried.  For my particular cancer I was considered in remission if the tumors had shrunk to a certain percentage of their original size.  There was no certain way to know whether the remaining nodules were entirely scar tissue or whether there were still cancer cells present, which is why I say “suspected to be in remission” — if I recall correctly, my tumors were below the threshold percentage in size at the point I could have exited the study, but then did shrink more after additional treatment . . . which might have happened with or without the additional treatment.  So WHO KNOWS.

About the author

SL Huang (aka MathPencil)
SL Huang (aka MathPencil)

SL Huang justifies an MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero books. Debut novel: Zero Sum Game, a speculative fiction thriller.
Twitter: @sl_huang


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  • I love mushrooms. All kinds. When I’m out walking a dog and I spot a mushroom next to a dog turd, I always think, “Hmmm, I wonder if that would taste good in a sesame bun with arugula and vegenaise.” The shroom, that is, not the turd. Though to be fair, I’ve never tried turd before, so it’s possibly also delightful in a sandwich.

    People tell me that many wild mushrooms are poisonous and I shouldn’t eat one unless I’m sure it’s safe. (Although some are toxic in a good way, like it expands your limits and makes you Bradley Cooper in that movie where he wrote a really a kickass novel. That’s what I need.)

    I’ve always wondered, how many intrepid cave-people had to endure stomach aches, bad trips, or worse, so that we know today what is edible. I’m thankful to the cave-person (let’s call her “Lisa”) who volunteered to try wild mushrooms. It’s due to Lisa’s help that someone worthless like me can freeload off her contribution and enjoy portabellas in safety. Science.

  • I love science too, but I wanna punch it in the face for causing all the bad shit that happened. >:-[ *punches science in the face*

    The werld needs more pencils like yew. *hugs you so tight your eraser pops off*

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